Can We Prevent Alzheimer’s?
Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Did you know that Alzheimer’s disease currently impacts over 6.7 million Americans? The Alzheimer’s Association defines the disease as a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior. Alzheimer’s can progress to eventually disrupt daily tasks.
As an expert in his field, we contacted Even F. Wang, M.D., Board-certified in Neurology and Clinical Neurophysiology. He practices at Genesis Neuroscience Center.
Dr. Wang explains that dementia is a category of neurological diseases, and Alzheimer’s falls under that category.
“I find that people with Alzheimer’s don’t realize they’re experiencing symptoms,” said Dr. Wang. “It’s usually a spouse or a child who notices behavioral changes indicating an issue.”
Increased memory loss
If you or your loved one is experiencing any of the above, it’s important to make an appointment with a primary care provider. From there, you may be referred to a neurologist.
Dr. Wang said that neurologists can run tests, including mental status examinations, spinal taps and MRIs, to rule out other reasons for memory loss. From there, doctors can determine whether you may have Alzheimer’s and discuss treatment options.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, it's being heavily researched internationally. With a better understanding of the disease comes better treatment.
According to the National Institute on Aging, available treatments may temporarily improve or stabilize memory and thinking skills. Other medications can help manage specific symptoms of Alzheimer’s, like behavioral problems, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness.
“There is a lot of excitement in our field surrounding Alzheimer’s treatment,” said Dr. Wang.
In July of 2023, U.S. Food and Drug Administration traditionally approved the first medication proven to slow the progression of Alzheimer's.
There are many risk factors that increase your risk of Alzheimer’s. Some of them, like age and genetics, are out of your control. Symptoms usually appear after 65, and the risk increases as you age. That does not mean that Alzheimer’s is a normal part of aging, according to the CDC. While things like multitasking may slow with age, memory and knowledge, remain stable and can even improve with age.
Scientists currently know of more than 70 genetic variations associated with Alzheimer’s. The National Institute of Aging states that just 10 years ago, scientists only knew of 10 variations. The research continues to improve our understanding of the disease. Furthermore, those who develop Alzheimer’s don’t always have a family history of the disease. Those who do have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s still have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s than those who don’t.
Diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking increase your chance of developing Alzheimer’s. “Living an active lifestyle and keeping an active mind are ways to reduce or delay your risk of Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Wang. “Letting your brain rest by getting enough sleep is another good practice.”
Here are things you can do to delay Alzheimer’s:
Quit drinking alcohol and smoking
Correct hearing loss
Maintain a healthy weight
Get enough sleep
The Sleep Health Foundation recommends seven to nine hours for adults 18 through 64 and seven to eight hours for adults 65 and older.
Manage your blood pressure and blood sugar
Be physically and mentally active
Word puzzles, number puzzles and learning new skills are ways to give your brain a workout.
Adding exercise to your life helps you stay active. Try activities you enjoy, like walking, workout classes or gardening.
As Dr. Wang said, delaying Alzheimer’s comes back to leading a healthy lifestyle. Making your health a priority now can make a big difference down the road.
If you or a loved one think you may be experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider to begin a treatment plan that is right for you.